Accession Number:

ADA109833

Title:

The Effects of the Symbology and Spatial Arrangement of Software Documentation in a Modification Task.

Descriptive Note:

Technical rept.,

Corporate Author:

GENERAL ELECTRIC CO ARLINGTON VA INFORMATION SYSTEMS PROGRAMS

Report Date:

1981-12-01

Pagination or Media Count:

66.0

Abstract:

This report describes the fourth in a series of experiments to evaluate the effects of the format of software documentation on programmer performance. The current experiment examined performance on a modification task. Thirty-six professional programmers were presented with documentation for each of three modular-sized programs. Nine different documentation formats were prepared for each program. These formats varied along two dimensions type of symbology and spatial arrangement. The type of symbology included normal English, abbreviated English and program design language PDL. The spatial arrangement included sequential vertical flow, branching flowchart, and hierarchical tree-like. The participants were required to implement a modification to each program. These modifications required a minimum of three to five lines of additional code which the participants inserted using a text editor. The program output was checked automatically and a message informed the participants whether the output was correct or incorrect. The participants were asked to continue working until the modification was completed successfully. The difficulty of the task was measured by the time required to successfully complete the modification and by the number of errors which appeared in the first submission of the modified program. Unlike the previous experiments in this series, the type of symbology did not have a strong effect on performance time. However, the results reflected the trend that appeared in the previous experiments the more succinct the symbology, the better the performance.

Subject Categories:

  • Computer Programming and Software

Distribution Statement:

APPROVED FOR PUBLIC RELEASE